A year ago, the average price of a home had dropped 3.5 percent nationwide. As we end 2007, the average price of homes has dipped again - a small amount in some markets and by more in others.
But the next year (and perhaps the year after that) will be a sellers market that's made for those with strong stomachs. While the National Association of Realtors claims that the housing market is stabilizing, other economists are calling for a turnaround in 2009, 2010 or even 2014.
If you want to sell and move, that's not the kind of news you want to hear. But given that 2008 is a presidential election year, and real estate normally slows during an election cycle, a real-estate recovery in 2009 seems plausible.
That doesn't mean folks won't be buying. If you're going to sell next year, the key to a successful closing will be planning. To get you going, here is my annual list of home seller resolutions you might want to keep.
Overcome any possible objections a buyer would have.
Sellers don't often understand that their primary job is to not only eliminate any potential objections that would stand in the way for a buyer to make an offer, but to exceed their expectations as well. If your home is competitively priced, and your home's condition exceeds a buyer's expectations, you'll get the offer you want.
Get your home into shape before you let anyone see it.
Getting a home into "selling shape" is quite different from even having a clean, beautiful home. You need to "stage" your home, which means you have to make it look exactly the way a buyer thinks it should.
How do you stage a home? Start by throwing away, giving away or packing away anything you haven't used in the last three to five years. You should also give your home a thorough cleaning and address any small fixer-upper projects you've been putting off.
Once your home is clean, you can assess what kind of other work needs to be done. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it's completely finished before you invite anyone over to see your home.
Invite at least three agents to create a comparative marketing analysis.
Often, sellers simply call the agent who sold them their home to list it. While you may end up with that person, you'll be doing yourself a favor if you invite a couple of other agents in from different firms.
Why? Because each agent will have a different marketing plan and idea about how much your home is worth.
Know what your selling timetable is before you list your home.
Do you want to sell or do you need to sell? If you need to be out in three months or less, you'll need an aggressive agent with a very competitive list price. If you've got six months or a year in which to sell, you may choose to price your home a little higher, or may choose a different type of agent.
Be realistic about the market.
After a half-dozen years of a super-hot seller's market, the tables have turned in many markets. Expensive homes are selling more slowly than homes priced for first-time buyers. Accept the reality of your local market and make sure you price your home realistically.
Know where you're going.
Once you've decided to sell, you ought to think about where you want to go. Often, people move to another home within the same general neighborhood. But if you're moving to a different city, state or part of the country, you'll need to do your homework ahead of time. Start researching neighborhoods that offer the amenities you're interested in. Don't wait until you have a contract on your home.
If you're not sure what you want to do, consider renting.
Read all documents thoroughly before signing them.
If you're going to sell (or buy) in the coming year, promise yourself that you'll take the time to read and understand the listing contract, offer to purchase, and loan documents for your next purchase. (If you're taking back a loan for the homebuyer, have an attorney prepare the documents.)
Set a minimum sales price.
To negotiate effectively, it helps to determine the minimum amount you'll accept before you put your property on the market.
Do not be driven by greed.
Remember, a successful sale means everyone walks away feeling happy. If you get so greedy that the buyer walks away, you've let the deal get the best of you.
Contact Ilyce Glink through her Web site, www.thinkglink.com, by mail at Real Estate Matters Syndicate, P.O. Box 366, Glencoe, Ill. 60022 or calling her radio show at 800-972-8255 from 11 a.m. to noon Sundays.